Let’s not wait for another devastating natural disaster to have important conversations about climate change with the people in our lives. We break down how to have impactful conversations about putting the planet first this election.

According to ABC’s Vote Compass, climate change is the most common number one issue among Australians this election, with 29% of people saying it’s the most important factor for them. 

In 2016, just six years ago, only 5% of people said climate change was their number one issue. 

In the time since, millions of Aussies have lived through natural disasters heightened by climate change. Australians have witnessed the catastrophic effects of fire, flood, and drought first-hand, and it’s clear these scenes are still at the forefront of people’s minds, with thousands of people still putting their lives back together. 


After The Flames – What Does A Bushfire Leave Behind?, Amy Fairall, photo by Anouk Berney, house, clothesline, clothes, burnt, smoke

Black Summer Bushfires | Photo by Anouk Berney


And yet, the debate on climate change in this election campaign seems to have come to a standstill, left behind by the 24 hour news cycle that brings a new issue to the public’s attention with each new day. 

In the last four weeks, I’ve heard more about Scott Morrison’s undercooked chicken curry than about demanding greater climate action from the two major political parties

So how do we make sure that climate action remains at the forefront of people’s minds when it comes time to vote? 

Let’s break down ways to have impactful conversations with people in your life about voting for climate and putting the planet first this election. 

1. Choose Your Battles Wisely

Conversations about climate change can be daunting and disheartening, especially if you’re having them with people who actively oppose your views and values.

It’s an easy mistake to make, thinking people who vehemently disagree with us are the ones whose minds we need to change, when really, the true power lies with the people who are undecided, or better yet, agree with us but are yet to take action.

Introducing the Spectrum of Allies.



When it comes to voting for the planet, everyone falls somewhere along this spectrum.

Rather than getting worked up in a heated debate with an active climate-denier who isn’t going to change their mind (guilty!), focus on chatting to people who fall into the middle wedges – passive opposition, neutral, passive allies – and aim to have a conversation that moves them one step in your direction.

The conversation will be more positive and more constructive too!

2. Make the Effort to Start the Conversation – In Person is Best

Talking about climate change openly with the people in our lives is incredibly important, as it affects all of us in real and tangible ways. So be brave and be the person to bring it up. 

Try asking; ‘Have you thought about who you’ll be voting for in the election?’

Talking to people face-to-face, no matter what the topic, is the most effective way to relate to someone and ensure your message isn’t misinterpreted. 

It allows a proper discussion to take place where you can read the person’s body language, hear their tone of voice, and break down barriers that naturally occur when communicating through a screen. 

If an in-person conversation isn’t possible, giving someone a call is the next best thing. 

In saying that, a conversation over text is better than no conversation at all! Get chatting!


3. Remember it’s a Discussion, Not a Lecture

It’s a climate change conversation, not a monologue. If you find yourself speaking more than half the time, you’re talking too much. 

To help keep the conversation even, ask open-ended, non-judgmental questions and actually listen to what the other person has to say. Ask follow up questions if you need to and take the time to repeat back what you’ve heard to show you understand. You might even find some common ground to agree on. 

Questions to consider asking; 

  • How has climate change affected you?
  • Are you worried about what the future may look like without climate action?
  • Is climate change an important issue for you this election? Why/why not?
  • Do you think enough is being done by Australian politicians to combat climate change?
  • Could climate change policy be the deciding factor in who gets your vote? Why/why not?
  • What do you know about each parties’ climate policy?’

4. Use Real Life Examples & Back Them Up With Facts

People don’t relate to numbers alone as well as they relate to stories. The science and stats on climate change are confusing, overwhelming, and often don’t mean much to the average person. 

Throwing hard facts and figures at a person as a way of convincing them to take action isn’t very effective. Neither is relying on distant examples that are difficult to relate to. 

But climate change is no longer a distant issue only happening at the ice caps or in the future. As unfortunate as it is, Australians have lived experiences of climate change now. We have a better grasp on what the future may look like and what’s at stake if drastic action isn’t taken. 

The best way to relate to people is through their own lived experiences and validating them with a few digestible stats.

For example, millions of people in Sydney and on the East Coast will vividly recall living through months of smoke-filled skies during the Black Summer Bushfires. What they might not recall is that more people died as a direct result of smoke inhalation than the fires themselves, with 445 deaths recorded and over 4000 hospitalisations.


5. Direct People to a Trusted Source to Find Where Their Values Align

Some people may find there’s a disconnect between the political party they usually vote for and how their personal values and beliefs actually stack up and a single conversation may not be enough to undo years of loyalty.

But as the Spectrum of Allies shows, it could be enough to get them to question it. 

There are plenty of great resources that wade through the political nonsense to give you the information you need to make an informed choice. Here are a few!

ABC Vote Compass

Political scientists have developed this tool (read: quiz) to help you figure out where you sit on the political spectrum and which parties’ policies align with your values. 

They Vote For You

They Vote For You is a handy tool that allows you to see how your current Member of Parliament votes on different issues and policies that are brought up in the House of Representatives. It’s easy to see whether your current representative shares your same interests and whether they stick to their promises. 

And if you’ve managed to convince someone to Put The Planet First, send them to one of these sites to help them find someone they can vote for who aligns with their values.

Climate 200

Climate 200 has a search function helps you find independent candidates in your electorate who are backed by Climate 200 and have climate action as a policy priority. 

Traffic Light Voting

Traffic Light Voting is a website that has a voting guide for each and every electorate around Australia that scores each candidate on their climate change policy with either a green, orange, or red light.


Feature photo by Ayla Rowe